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How to plan a healthy meal: Use MyPlate

How to plan a healthy meal using MyPlate

By Mandy Budzowski MS and Laura Yautz RD LDN

Feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start in planning a healthy meal for your family? We have a resource to help you with that: it’s called MyPlate. MyPlate is one of the simplest guides to healthy eating and extremely easy to use. This guide helps bring a meal to life by using the image of a place setting to show the five food groups and recommended amounts for a healthy diet. The place setting can be used to guide your choices for planning a healthy meal.

The MyPlate website has many unique features, including:

  • Recommended servings for each food group based on age, gender, and activity level.
  • An online BMI calculator that can show whether you are at a healthy weight, underweight, or overweight — based on your height and weight.
  • A SuperTracker, which is an online tool that helps you monitor what you eat and drink. It recommends customized suggestions for what you should eat and drink, and gives tips for making better choices.
  • Sample meal plans for a week with food group based recipes.
  • Food safety advice for preparing, cooking, and serving foods.
  • Tips for increasing physical activity and making it part of your routine.
  • A tutorial for reading food labels to help learn the basics.
  • And much more!

To learn more about building a healthy plate, select a food group below. Click the links to find recommendations for each food group:

  • Fruits: This food group includes all fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruit, and 100-percent fruit juice. They may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. When planning a meal, you want to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Vegetables: This food group includes any fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/ dehydrated vegetable or 100-percent vegetable juice. For variety try eating this group whole, chopped, or mashed — and include as many colors as you can.  
  • Grains: This food group includes any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain. Aim to make at least half of your grains whole grains. Examples include bread, pasta, quinoa, rice, and oatmeal.
  • Protein: This food group includes any food made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds. You want to select a variety of protein foods in your daily diet and make them lean or low-fat.
  • Dairy: This food group includes all fluid milk products and foods made from milk and substitutes like soy milk. Fat-free or low-fat options are best. Examples include milk, yogurt, and cheese. It’s important to note that you need calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and  to maintain bone mass. For many Americans, dairy products are the primary source of calcium.
  • Oils: Oils are not a food group, but are a vital part of your diet because they provide essential nutrients. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature and are commonly used in cooking. Examples of other places to find oils include nuts, fish, and salad dressing.

MyPlate makes it simple to plan your portions before you eat, and be more aware of what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl.

How have you used MyPlate to plan your family’s meals and snacks? Leave your suggestions in the comment box for other readers.